By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 20 June 2015
Scanning through the results of this year’s International Wine Challenge results, I was delighted to see a cluster of very well priced sherries under £10 amongst the gold medallists.
As a sherry fanatic, I seriously believe that this long forgotten drink offers some of the best value wines in the world, considering the care and craftsmanship that goes into making them – and the complexity of flavours you get for your money.
So where did it go wrong for sherry? With too much poor sherry on the market in the past, it got a bad name and dropped right out of fashion. Our memories of sherry perhaps linger back to Christmases past where it was served at the wrong temperature, when the vicar or a maiden aunt came for tea – and then sat lifeless too long in decanter stuck to the back of the cupboard.
What has really changed nowadays is the ‘freshness factor’ of sherry. Many of the excellent sherries on the market are sold in smaller bottle sizes with advice on chilling and consuming within two weeks of opening.
The other point against sherry is that it is a ‘fortified wine’ – which means it has had brandy added. So naturally people have popped it into the ‘too high alcohol’ category – along with port and madeira. Yet we seem more than happy to drink Australian Shiraz, Argentine Malbec or Californian Zinfandel at 15%+ because they are ‘table wines’ – yet the lighter dry styles of sherry Finos and Manzanillas are similar in alcohol level at 15%.
So – yes – it is June and time to bring out a fresh tangy sherry to serve as an unusual aperitif or alongside a plateful of delicious charcuterie or terrine as a summer lunch. As we head into mid-summer, I want to make the point loud and clear that sherry is definitely not just for Christmas.
What many forget is that sherry comes in so many hues, it can be a perfect refreshing summer aperitif or delicious match with certain foods – to help you along I have included food suggestions for each style. Just think steamy hot evenings in Andalucia with bars buzzing with everyone quaffing crisp dry nutty finos and manzanillas from tiny capita glasses alongside their salted almonds and tapas.
DRY & FRESH
La Gitana Manzanilla (£7.99 reduced from £9.99 Majestic Wine; £10 for 75cl Waitrose; Tesco; also available from independent winemerchants Peter Green & Henderson Wines in Edinburgh)
Food suggestion: bowl of olives & salted almonds
Manzanilla is my favourite of the drier sherry styles as I love its salty edge. Raised under the famous ‘flor’ yeast of sherry in the maritime climate of Sanlucar de Barrameda, west of Jerez.
Pedro’s Almacenista Fino (£8.99 Majestic Wine)
Food suggestion: bowl of olives or almonds, squid, whitebait or seafood tapas
Delighted to see Majestic Wine’s new Pedro selection and their fun labels. Pedro Dauthieu blends rather unusual sherries for this range. This is a blend of an older almacenista’s (individual stock holder) reserve wines with younger wines from another Jerez bodegas. Very dry, very nutty and mouth-wateringly tangy.
DRY & MATURE
Very Rare Dry Oloroso NV Lustau (£7.49 hf bt Marks & Spencer)
Food suggestion: Iberico acorn pork loin, mushroom terrine, foie gras or charcuterie
A gold medal winner from Marks & Spencer in this year’s International Wine Challenge. Lustau are currently the superstars in the sherry world. Manuel Iozano of Lustau has blended from deep reserves of old sherries, no less than 60 different barrels, which have been used to add incredible complexity to this Oloroso. Cinnamon notes with walnuts, hazelnuts and figgy flavours. Fantastic complexity for under £10.
Dry Old Palo Cortado NV Lustau (£7.49 hf Marks & Spencer)
Food suggestion: Iberico acorn ham, rich pate, smoked charcuterie or Manchego cheese
Palo Cortado is a less well known category of sherry. Basically it started life as a Fino under the flor yeast, then cast off the flor turning itself into an Oloroso style. Bone dry with a delicious pruney flavour.
Antique Amontillado Fernando de Castilla (£23.99 for 50 cl bt Virgin Wines; Waitrose; Woodwinters, Edinburgh & Bridge of Allan)
Food suggestion: game pate
Fernando de Castilla are my current favourite amongside sherry producers. Their prices are high, but their range is incredibly complex. This dry sherry contains very old wines in the blend which give it a haunting raisiny, tangy flavour.
Morrison’s Amontillado (£6.99 Morrisons)
Food suggestion: slice of fruit cake
This well priced amontillado made by Luis Caballero has won a gold medal two years running in the International Wine Challenge.
Superior Emilin Muscatel NV Lustau (£9.75 hf bt Luvians, Cupar & St Andrews; Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com)
Food suggestion: fruit salad
This is one of my favourite sweet sherries, because it is so wonderfully fresh. It might be nudging 200 g/l residual sugar, but with its fabulous acidity you would never guess as there is nothing cloying about this sweet wine. Orange peel notes, tangy, honeyed, dried figs flavours. Always a winner at my tastings.
RICH & SWEET
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference 12 Year Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry NV (£8 for 50 cl bt Sainsbury’s)
Food suggestion: drizzle over vanilla icecream or serve with very dark chocolate tart
A very rich intensely sweet sherry made from sun-dried Pedro Ximenez grapes which has really intensified their sweetness: you will either love or hate its rich glooppy texture.
Lustau East India Solera Rich Oloroso (£10.49 for 50cl bt Waitrose)
Food suggestion: Spanish blue cheese like Valdeon; coffee or banana dessert
Lustau again. This won the best own label sherry in the Wines of Spain award last year. A deliciously intense blend of oloroso sherry with pedro ximenez to give a warm nutty creamy sweetness.
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